Men are grabbing most new jobs as the economy recovers.

Men are grabbing more than two-thirds of the private-sector jobs created as the economy recovers, reversing a long-running trend that came within a whisker of giving the U.S. its first-ever majority-female workforce.

In a wrinkle that puzzles economists, one important driver of the trend is that hundreds of thousands of men are showing up in the once mostly female world of retailing.

Nearly 1.28 million men gained jobs in the 12 months that ended in November, compared with 600,000 women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Though men have returned to work in greater numbers in goods-producing jobs and service-related businesses, they’re not returning to still-stagnant construction industries.

Instead, retailers have added 216,900 men — about five times as many as have been added by traditionally male financial services companies — vs. about 9,000 women. Also, manufacturers have added more than 250,000 men and cut 33,000 women.

“It’s a testament to how difficult the job market is,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Ryan Sweet, noting that there are still 4.5 times more unemployed people than U.S. job openings. “Men are taking jobs you wouldn’t think they would.”

Women’s share of U.S. jobs — private and government — peaked at 49.99% in October 2009 as layoffs racked construction and financial services. The percentage of women in workplaces is down to 49.4%, according to the BLS.

BLS economist Marcy Jacobs said the agency hasn’t studied why new jobs are skewing male, but a leader of a research group on working families said the shift is a pendulum swing after men took the brunt early in the recession.

“Education and health care jobs are now getting cut, and those are the jobs that have traditionally employed females,” said Stephanie Coontz, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families.

The most important factor pushing men into new fields may be the looming expiration of unemployment benefits, Sweet said.

“They decide, do you drop out of the labor force or take anything you can?” he said.

Via USA Today